Singing in the dark

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds - Photo by Roger Jacob
National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds - Photo by Roger Jacob

IF CRIME is, as the Government believes, a public health emergency, then it is also a crisis of culture. It is the product of the veneration of guns, gangs and greed over human life; it is the offspring of a loud conspiracy of silence.

The social media singing contest launched by the Ministry of National Security on July 8 is, however much it paints a picture of a government shooting in the dark, a belated acknowledgement of this.

But the Call to Order project, as well-intentioned as it may be, is destined to fall by the wayside, like so many other “soft” initiatives, in the absence of a concrete, comprehensive and cohesive plan.

The graveyard is filled with expensive relics: the National Crime Prevention Programme and, further back, Hoop of Life, as well as Life Sport.

The seemingly scattershot approach of the Government in recent times does not inspire confidence.

It was only last week that the Cabinet’s position was one of breathing fire at criminals. The draconian bail legislation was resurrected, this time with the help of a complaisant Opposition.

Premised on the idea that repeat offenders are at the heart of criminality, the law completely ignores the need for prison reform, rehabilitation and social reintegration. It pays no mind to the plight of drug addicts.

Suddenly, however, the Government has moved to a position of wanting redemption songs.

“It is quite clear, given the complexity of human beings, you have to take different approaches,” Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds said this week, explaining the abrupt shift. “There’s no losing in this. It’s only gain.”

Yet there is something to be lost.

Generally, culture and governments do not mix well. When they do, it is because the conditions for cultural production are enhanced; gatekeepers are removed; ministers, ministries and government agencies go about their work, while leaving artists to go about theirs.

When the latter does not happen, we don’t get culture. We get bad art that, at best, moves no one and, at worst, is propaganda.

And yet we must start somewhere. Culture can be a powerful tool.

We wish the ministry well in this latest venture, though already it faces an uphill battle. It has been pilloried by a sceptical public rightly wary of gimmicks.

Though serious crimes are down 15 per cent, home invasions continue, police killings persist, and murders have spread deeper into Tobago.

The additional officers, cameras, intelligence and forensic resources promised by Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher do not inspire new hope, since they are things we have heard before.

And that’s just it: officials want young people to sing a different tune.

But they themselves are humming the same ole melody.


"Singing in the dark"

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